Is it our modern lifestyle which unhinges the mind at weird angles? As a young girl growing up, I was not aware that quite so many phobias existed. Then again, I lived in a poor country where worrying about paying the rent and having enough to feed your family were highest on people’s lists of fears.
Is the lack of life’s worries the very thing that has induced these abundant fears? Or have phobias always been present but misdiagnosed?
I’ve just heard of Automysophobia. It’s the fear of being dirty. All the usual signs of increased heart-rate, panic attacks, dry mouths, excessive sweating, and the feeling of losing control, accompany what is a genuine terror of getting dirty. The most worrying symptom is that people who suffer with authomysophobia tend to take extreme measures to stay clean. Walking in the path of oncoming traffic to avoid stepping on a muddy patch on the ground is not uncommon behaviour for this type of illness. Washing with bleach if one feels that they’ve become dirty is also not unheard of.
Automysophobia isn’t just the dislike of dirt on one’s skin, or being careful not to appear dirty to one’s peers. It’s totally irrational, like most phobias, and digs itself into the psyche a whole lot deeper than simply being ‘careful.’ The good news is that it can be managed with behaviour therapy and treatment.
Be on the look-out for this developing in your children. With the onset of swine flu, people are understandably taking precautions to be extra clean. Talk to your children reasonably and don’t forbid them to get dirt on themselves. Dirt is part of growing up, and it shows that our children had some fun outdoors. This, in an age of obesity in kids, can only be a good thing. No one has found any relationship between ‘too tidy’ parents and the onset of automysophobia in kids, but don’t take any chances. Phobias make for a very miserable lifestyle for anyone, let alone young people blossoming into our very difficult world.